Gymnastics clubs in Ireland currently have a total membership of 34,000 with a yearly growth of 20 per cent according to CEO of Gymnastics Ireland, Ciarán Gallagher.
"We have got everything from small voluntary clubs that run out of school hall-style set-ups to full-time businesses that are basically facilities that are running with turnovers of up to half-a-million euro," said Gallagher.
The largest club in the country is Douglas Gymnastics Club, which has 3,000 members. It makes it one of the biggest clubs in the country, out of all sports. That's organic.
The numbers and potential are huge. This is being replicated and is happening in America, Australia, there is just a massive explosion.
We know we are a facility-based sport. The more facilities we have, the more people can get in.
Gymnastics Ireland is partnering with Ireland Active, the body which represents the leisure industry, to develop clubs for both kids and adults in leisure facilities throughout the country.
"It’s fun-based activities," said Gallagher, "fundamental stuff, physical literacy for kids, but then for adults we will be going down the lines of fitness, strength, flexibility.
"We want to design it so these facilities have everything. We have done a lot of research behind the scenes and we have been working strategically to build all of these programmes and get them ready."
Gallagher believes that recent success of Rhys McClenaghan - the 20-year-old from Down who has won medals in the pommel horse at the Commonwealth Games, European Championship and World Championships - will help accelerate growth.
85 per cent of those involved in the sport in Ireland are female. That differs from the worldwide average which is 60 per cent female.
"I think the over-domination for years in Ireland of field sports, that’s just what you did – boys went to field sports," explained Gallagher.
"Also, historically, a lack of investment in Olympic sport - I’m talking over 20-plus years - I think that’s why we ended up in the position we were in, where it’s 85 per cent female.
"But now we are starting to see those metrics change every year, especially at the young kid level. I talk to so many rugby players, GAA players, and it’s not a thing anymore where you send the girls to this and the boys to that – that was a really kind of Irish attitude.
"It’s now, you send your kids to gymnastics because the biggest driver behind our sport for parents is physical literacy. Parents are now better educated about what their kids need to do. And they know that by sending their kids to a sport like gymnastics, their kids are going to be healthier, fitter and stronger.”
Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile